Orangette’s Vegetable and Pearl Barley Soup

One of the things I love the most about receiving and sharing recipes is the feeling of connection which occurs every time you prepare the food. I can’t make sausage strata without remembering my friend Julie. I can’t make Mexican casserole without remembering my friend Bonnie. I can’t make white bean dip without remembering my friend Suzanne. These women and many more are immortalized in my food simply by the act of sharing their favorite recipes, and that is no small thing. It is for that very reason that I strive to post only good and worthwhile recipes here and not waste your time with anything mediocre; I want to be remembered by you fondly. No one achieves immortality through dry banana bread.

As a new blogger, one of the joys I’m experiencing is connecting with friends and relatives from near and far. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, we have four degrees of separation or less. You either know me personally or you know someone who knows me or you’re related to me in some fashion. Two such people are my cousins Linda and Beth, who have been very encouraging and supportive of my blog. Beth recently linked me Molly Wizenberg’s rather famous food blog Orangette, and while I was familiar with Molly’s name as an avid NPR listener and Bon Appetit reader (as well as being mentioned by my favorite food blogger, The Wednesday Chef), I had never read her blog. I can see now why it is so beloved! The really inspiring part was learning how, like me, Molly just decided one day to do what she loved: cooking and writing. And also like me, she didn’t let lack of proficient knife skills and a journalism degree hold her back!

This recipe is a keeper. As Molly wrote, it doesn’t look like much. If I didn’t hear how good it is from a reputable source, I would have passed it by without a second thought. I’m so glad I didn’t! Believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever cooked with parsnips. (And how cool are parsnips? They remind me of vampire carrots.) Whenever I have parsnips from now on, I will think of Molly’s blog and the first time I ever used them, and whenever I read Molly’s blog, I will think of my cousin Beth who introduced me to Orangette. Food is so much more than something to eat.

Orangette’s Vegetable and Pearl Barley Soup
Adapted from Great British Food, by Cass Titcombe, Patrick Clayton-Malone, and Dominic Lake

A few notes from Orangette:
– I used homemade chicken stock to make this soup, but you could also use good-tasting store-bought chicken or vegetable stock. To me, the best brand is Better Than Bouillon.
– If your celery comes with leaves still attached, save them! Toss in a small handful when you add the cabbage, toward the end.
– Instead of parsnips, try peeled, cubed rutabaga.

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large yellow or sweet onion, diced
150 grams (3 or 4 stalks) celery, peeled and diced
150 grams (about 3 medium) parsnips, peeled, cored, and diced
150 grams (about 3 medium) carrots, peeled and diced
150 grams (1 large) leeks, diced
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
Leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 ½ liters chicken or vegetable stock
Salt
50-60 grams pearl barley (Dawn used about half a cup)
A couple handfuls of shredded Savoy cabbage or Brussels sprouts
Freshly ground black pepper

Warm the olive oil in a Dutch oven or small stockpot. Add the onion, celery, parsnips, carrots, and leeks, and stir to coat with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until softened. Do not allow to brown. Add the garlic and thyme leaves, and cook for a few minutes more. Then add the stock and a couple of good pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Then stir in the pearl barley, and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Savoy cabbage or Brussels sprouts, and simmer for 5 minutes more. Taste, and add salt as needed. Serve hot, with freshly ground black pepper, if you like.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

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